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Halkbank was a link in the chain to finance Iranian petroleum interests in the wake of U. S. -led nuclear sanctions. In March 2012 Iran was stopped from using the international money transfer system SWIFT. Halkbank seems, between March 2012 and July 2013 while the UN sanctions regime was in place prior to the November 2013 P5+1 agreement, to have purchased some $13bn worth of gold on the open market. The sanctions prevented Iran from being paid in dollars or euros, but gold was never mentioned in the sanctions regime, and therefore this loophole allowed gold to be used to fund the purchase of Iranian petroleum products. Halkbank allowed the middlemen of Iran to buy gold with their Turkish lira, and that gold found its way back to Iranian coffers. One investigation found that US$2bn in gold bullion (about 36 tonnes) was flown from Turkey to Dubai in August 2012 alone. In defending its decision not to enforce its own sanctions, the Obama administration insisted that Turkey only transferred gold to private Iranian citizens. The administration argued that, as a result, this wasn't an explicit violation of its executive order. Iranian Ambassador to Turkey Ali Reza Bikdeli recently praised Halkbank for its "smart management decisions in recent years [that] have played an important role in Iranian-Turkish relations. " Halkbank stated that there were no sanctions against trading precious metals with Iran until 1 July 2013.